From Glenn Latimer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Meb Keflezighi and Blake Russell dominated the men's and women's fields at the USA 15km Championships on Saturday at the 2006 Gate River Run. This year marked the 29th running of the event and the 13th consecutive year that the event has hosted the USA 15 km Championships.
The day dawned with moderate temperatures but very high humidity as the Women's Championships started. Blake Russell from the Big Sur Distance Project went straight into the lead with a 5:03 first mile and was never challenged as she passed 5 km in 16:12, 10 km in 32:48 (16:36) to win with ease in 49:14.
Russell, who won her first USA title at the 20 km at New Haven in September 2005 is already ahead of schedule in 2006 with her second USA title in a month, having won the 8 km title at the USA Cross Country Championships in New York in February.
"I was a little worried running the whole race by myself," said Russell after the race. "I was trying to break 49:00 but I knew warming up when I was pouring sweat that the humidity would be a problem." Running solidly in second place was U.S. Olympian Jen Rhines in her final tune-up for the Rome Marathon.
The Men's race which featured the third offering of the Equalizer Bonus, awarding $5,000 to the first male or female to cross the finish line, started exactly five minutes after the women's race, with Abdi Abdirahman taking the early lead with a 4:39 opening mile, followed by Meb Keflezighi and Matt Gonzales. A 4:31 mile fifth mile opened the gap Keflezighi needed as he ran a very even pace with 5 km splits of 14:38, 29:10 (14:32) and 43:43 (14:33).
"I came in late last night after a hectic week," related Keflezighi after the race. "I wanted to relax and get into the race slowly and work into it. Then I picked it up at a turn and pushed the pace in the middle of the race."
Keflezighi, who became a new father on Wednesday to daughter Sara, celebrated in style with a victory in 43:43, good for $15,000 ($10,000 for 1st plus the $5,000 Equalizer Bonus).
USA Running Circuit
The 2006 USA 15 km Championship was the beginning of the women's edition of the 2006 USA Running Circuit (USARC) and the second event of the year for men. The USARC, a USA Track & Field road series, features USA Championships from 5 km to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners, including Olympians Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Colleen DeReuck and Dan Browne. The twelfth edition for the men and tenth for the women, the 2005 circuit has eight events for men and seven events for women.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6000, $4000, and $2500) for the top three men and women point scorers overall. The USARC points at the USA Marathon Championships will be doubled.
The mission of the USA Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $4 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.
For more information on the 2006 USA 15 km Championships and the 2006 USARC, visit www.usatf.org.